Jacksonville State brought a solid attack that had surged over the past two game into its showdown with Football Championship Subdivision’s top defense, but Tennessee State’s defense got the best of it. Two early red-zone trips resulted in field goals, and JSU spent much of the night behind the sticks and couldn’t sustain drives. Quarterback Max Shortell was ineffective after a nice start and left the game with an injury.
Eli Jenkins’ 76-yard pass to Markis Merrill to set up JSU’s lone TD was a bright spot. DaMarcus James’ 2-yard run late in the third quarter accounted for the touchdown..
JSU’s defense gave up too many big runs up the middle to running back Tim Broughton and seemed to lose receivers in coverage.
TSU quarterback Michael German did a fantastic job of holding the ball to the last second, then dumping to open receivers while being charged by JSU defenders.
The one time German held the ball too long led to the bright spot for JSU. Chris Landrum and Dustin Guyton sacked him for a fourth-quarter safety to bring JSU within 21-15.
Place-kicker Griffin Thomas delivered on both of his field-goal attempts, and Harris Gaston blocked a field-goal attempt by TSU’s Jamin Godfrey.
One crucial gaffe, though, hurt JSU’s defense. The Gamecocks were flagged on a play that involved offsetting personal fouls, and it wiped out a 50-yard Hamish MacInnes punt. He punted again, and TSU wound up with better field position and drove for Godfrey’s 50-yard field goal, which put TSU up 24-15 in the fourth quarter.
It’s hard to see a coaching failure in this game. TSU is just that good on defense, and German does enough on offense to make the Tigers formidable.
It wasn’t hard to see from tactics how concerned JSU’s staff was about TSU’s defense. The Gamecocks tried a fake field goal and lateral pass in the first half, with neither play succeeding.
The one questionable coaching decision was a JSU timeout with TSU facing third-and-goal in the final seconds of the first half. It allowed TSU to talk things over, and German threw a touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 21-6.
Murray State was the win that got away for JSU, not Tennessee State. The Tigers are just better and well worthy of their 6-1 record (3-0 OVC).
As advertised, TSU played mostly base defense and made open-field tackles. A team might get a first down or two along the way, but the negative play or first-down failure that puts opponents behind the sticks is never far away.